With Google I/O just around the corner, this is probably not the sort of news that Google could have wanted. Having said that, it’s perhaps not as bad as the protesters that crashed the keynote last year. Either way, Google is not alone in falling under the eyes of Russian authorities. Google, Facebook and Twitter have been warned by Russia’s Roskomnadzor, which is the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. Not only is the division’s name an eye-catcher, but also recent laws that some liken to censorship and the suppression of free speech. Not complying with these regulations is what has these three big firms in the spotlight.
In Russia, Russian bloggers with over 3,000 readers must have their data handed over to the Government, to ensure that these bloggers are not encouraging “unsanctioned protests and unrest” as Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky puts it. Speaking of the three companies’ US bases Ampelonsky said that “We realize they are registered under U.S. jurisdiction. But I think in this case they should demonstrate equal respect to national legislation” and that the Government could even turn to sanctions if the companies do not comply.
This isn’t the first time that Google has faced scrutiny in Russia, and they’re currently facing a tough time in Europe, having fallen under the wrath of the EU Commission for Anti-Trust allegations. Regardless of whether or not Google, Facebook and Twitter agree with the laws, if they’re operating on Russian soil then they should of course comply with the local laws. Having said that, Google and its contemporaries are keen to stand against surveillance and censorship and it’s likely that they will face further scrutiny before they simple roll over.
The Russian Government has come under fire for this sort of approach to the Internet before, and while the Government insists these regulations are not censorship laws, critics see them as just that in all but name. While the Internet seems to have enjoyed key successes in the West with the recent passing of Net Neutrality laws, this just goes to show how different things are all over the world.